Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Modeling Smoldering Fires using the Computer Model CONTAM



William D. Davis


The computer model CONTAM was used to simulate the spread of smoke in a house with a working furnace during smoldering fires. Three smoldering experiments from a study on detector sensitivity and siting requirements conducted in 1975 using a two story brick house with a basement were chosen to model. The choice was based on the experiments having similar smoldering sources and location, a furnace that was operated in two of the experiments, the reported doors to various rooms being open or closed and the outdoor weather having almost identical conditions. All of these experiments were allowed to smolder for a substantial length of time and did not transition to flaming. The results of the modeling are compared with the experiments. CONTAM was not designed to model fire but with some recommended additions could become very useful modeling smoke spread from smoldering fires.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1685
Report Number


smoldering, fire experiments, computer modeling, HVAC, visibility


Davis, W. (2010), Modeling Smoldering Fires using the Computer Model CONTAM, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created December 1, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017